Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Law versus the race question in America: Afri-centric Analysis

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
July 25, 2013

The "not guilty" verdict in the George Zimmerman case brings to the fore the twin-headed problem that confronts America today, namely, law versus the race question.

At the outset, it must be stated quite equivocally that the race question was intrinsically rooted in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and it also played a pivotal role in the passage of the Voting Rights Act signed by then President Lyndon Baines Johnson on 21 March 1965.

As President Barack Obama has cautioned: "I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws and a jury has spoken. Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. There are very few African-American men in the country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me."

The salient fact of the matter is that this trial involved the law and the race question in America and at the end, they were at acerbic loggerheads.

One the one hand, legal analysts/experts concluded that the prosecution failed to present solid evidence to warrant a guilty verdict of second degree murder or at least, a manslaughter charge against George Zimmerman. Their common view was that this was an "over charged" case.

On the other hand, a white man walked free after shooting and killing an unarmed African-American male teenager.

Indeed, one of the pieces of evidence that did not come out in court was George Zimmerman's racist remark to describe Trayvon Martin. Why not? Another exclusion was George Zimmerman's automatic racial profiling mind-set. Why?

Let us recall that the police told/warned George Zimmerman not to pursue/follow Trayvon Martin. However, George Zimmerman totally ignored the police's demand and proceeded to pursue this unarmed Black teenager in his car and on foot. Ergo, the salient questions that immediately come to the fore are: Who was the aggressor? Didn't Trayvon Martin have the legal, civil right to defend himself against a more powerful, mature adult? Wasn't Trayvon Martin the one who indeed had the right of self-defense instead of the other way around? And since George Zimmerman was the one who was armed, what was Trayvon Martin supposed to do in this scary, life or death situation?

George Zimmerman was already keenly aware of the intricacies/dynamics of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Ergo, with this knowledge in hand and a loaded pistol, he knew that this was a win-win situation. He also concluded that the moment Trayvon Martin reacted in the slightest violent manner that his lights would go out–and they did. Then and there, George Zimmerman knew that the Florida law would be on his side.

As a result, it was natural for George Zimmerman to plead "self-defense" under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law after he had shot and killed Trayvon Martin. It was perfect fit for him.

Indeed, the history of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law reveals that a white person who shot and killed a Black victim received a "no penalty"/"not guilty" verdict 73 per cent of the time, while a Black person who shot and killed a white victim received a similar "no penalty"/"not guilty" verdict only 59 per cent of the time.

Indeed, this tragic racial incident in the wake of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law seems to be a logical extension/continuum /fallout of the 1857 US Supreme Court Dred Scott decision to the extent that "the Black man has no rights which the White man is bound to respect."

Furthermore, the adoption of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law directly correlates/coincides with the primary finding of the July 1967 Kerner Commission in regard to the race question in America. The Kerner Commission found that the nation is "moving toward two societies, one Black, one White separate and unequal"; the country faces "a system of Apartheid in its major cities." The Report also delivered an indictment on "white society" for "isolating and neglecting African-Americans."

It must be noted that the judge never allowed any putative racial evidence as "racial profiling" but most significantly and very interestingly, the judge included/invoked the provisions of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law in her "Instructions to the Jury." In other words, the judge eschewed the race question during the trial but included it at the end, either by accident or by design.

In the aftermath of the "not guilty" verdict, the most bitter/painful pill for the thousands of peaceful, non-violent protestors, mainly African-Americans, to swallow is that the decision took place in a court of law, not in a court of morality and human-racial equality. As former President Jimmy Cater surmised: "It was a legal decision not a moral decision."

Indeed, these African-American protestors are "sick and tired of being sick and tired" of seeing young Black men shot and killed on a routine basis and their White perpetrators walk free. When will the legal cum racial madness end?--- That's the fundamental question in America today.

Now is the time for all Americans to judge each based on "the content of their character and not by the color of their skin."

In the final analysis, all Americans need to heed the salient but apocalyptic admonition of slain Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King as follows: "Now the judgement of God is upon us (26 February 2012) and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools."

"Justice for Trayvon Martin" ... "No justice, no peace."

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.

Share your views here

Nantambu's Homepage | Archives | Trinicenter Homepage